Final Plan Announced for California High-Speed Railway
Supporters of California's high-speed rail project released their final business plan on Monday which outlines all costs, financing and construction for the project.
Their attempts to launch their plan last fall were met with heavy opposition when they announced a draft plan that detailed the project's cost to have more than doubled to $98 billion.
The plan, which was formally announced at a train depot in Fresno, has a reworked project price of $68.4 billion.
The newly drafted business plan also outlines an acceleration of the construction schedule and an expansion of the initial segment.
Now, backers of the project will have to convince skeptical lawmakers to approve and support their plan.
The chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richard, expressed optimism saying, "We feel good that we've addressed a lot of the public concerns."
"We feel this is a very, very reasonable and workable path forward for the state," he said.
The revised plan cuts off $30 billion from the project's price, but is still $25 billion more than what voters approved in 2008.
Gov. Jerry Brown will ask the Legislature in the coming weeks to appropriate $2.3 billion in rail bonds so that the project's first phase of construction can begin by the year's end.
The new business plan now strongly relies on improving existing rail lines in urban areas as opposed to building new track. Just under $2 billion in upgrades would be spent on reworking existing commuter rail lines.
The first portion of the railway would connect the northern San Joaquin Valley to the San Fernando Valley by 2022, which is an expansion of the originally proposed 130-mile Madera-to-Bakersfield section that critics have called a "train to nowhere."
The High-Speed Rail Authority called their construction plan a "blended" system and said that it would still transport travelers from Union Station in Los Angeles to the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes. The train is still planned to travel at speeds up to 220 mph, which voters had been promised when they originally authorized the bullet train system.
A summary of the plan distributed by the authority says that construction of the first segment within 10 years combined with expected profits will serve as a "launching pad" for private investment.
The plan also relies on the assumption that an additional $4 billion will be granted by the federal government over the next 10 years, even though there is significant congressional opposition to the project.
The state already expects to be the recipient of $3.5 billion in federal money if the project begins construction before the end of the year.
However, critics of the project said the numbers will not work as expected, even before they had reviewed the re-drafted proposal.
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, the go-to person on the high-speed rail project for Assembly Republicans, said the authority's new plans should be cause for lawmakers to block the sale of bonds for the project.
"The entire high-speed rail project needs to go back to the drawing board," she said.
For a map of the proposed train routes click here or find it below.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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